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My summary, thoughts, and review on the twilight zone episode: 5 characters in search of an exit. This episode was based on a short story called "The depository" I can't find it online though....if anyone finds it, let me know :)

Submitted: June 29, 2016

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Submitted: June 29, 2016



Title: Five Characters In Search of an Exit; Season 3 Episode 14

Summary, review, analysis

Episode Aired: December 22, 1961

IMDB synopsis: An army major awakens in a small room with no idea of who he is or how he got there. He finds four other people in the same room (a ballerina, a clown, a hobo, and a bagpiper) and they all begin to question how they each arrived there, and more importantly, how to escape.


A classic episode with a surprise ending; definitely unforgettable.

What an odd and random pair; the ballerina, clown, hobo and the bagpiper.

The episode begins with a Major waking up inside this mysterious room; he is a little disoriented- understandably. The first person he encounters is a clown, who is quite an eccentric character who just happens to have a flower pot tied to his head. He kinda looks like he belongs in the wizard of oz.



This slightly creepy clown doesn’t calm the major down at all and the major gets even more frustrated because the clown acts like nothing’s wrong and then proceeds to point out that there are other prisoners on the other side of the room; the ballerina, tramp and bagpiper;  all of which come marching as if on cue, they circle the major and the clown sits on the floor next to them smiling an eerie yet childish smile.

The ballerina explains that none of them know who they or where they are- each of them woke up in darkness: “We’re nameless things with no memory- no knowledge of what was before, no knowledge of what is now, or what will be”

The major desperately tries to find some sort of way out and starts pounding on the metallic walls. Meanwhile, the clown watches him and starts to sing along to the beat of the pounding, making up a tune that repeats, “We’re here because we’re here, because we’re here" in a sing songy voice as if it's just a game.The Major is a bit confused and disturbed by this which I thought was funny.

Then the clown tells him he’s wasting his time and that he’s an idiot; an energetic idiot….


It makes me think that the same sort of thing happens in reality- we are thrown into this world. Maybe there’s an underlying theme: that it’s hard to find ourselves- our true identities- inside a universe that feels so restricted. Also, we can feel like we don’t have an identity. We often think: What is our purpose? Could there be more out there? Is this life all there is? It’s frustrating.  The dolls were consumed by their thoughts, and in the real world, so can we and it can feel like reality is some sort of hell or dreamworld. These 5 characters could represent the variety of people in the world; our varying personalities and occupations, occupations people take just to get by and pass the time. If we stay in one place too long, we can forget what were living for, our memories slip away as we get older, and usually we end up existing instead of actually living.


The bagpiper explains  that they have tried all sorts of things to escape and have searched up and down but there doesn’t seem to be a way out.

At one point the Major looks up and there’s a light coming from above, he asks the clown what the light is and the clown answers him with a philosophical response:  “you name it; sky, artificial light, florescent lamp, illuminated microscope;  you name it! One guess is as good as the other.”

The ballerina joins in with her imagination: “Maybe were on another planet or maybe were on a spaceship going to another planet. Maybe we’re all insane…or maybe this is all a mirage; an illusion.”

The hobo thought he might as well throw in his two cents: “We’re dead and this is limbo.”

The bagpiper ponders on it, “We don’t really exist; we’re dream figures from somebody’s else’s  existence.”

The clown replies, “Or each of us are having a dream; and everyone else is part of the other person’s dream.”

I think I like the bagpiper’s thought best because it’s the most surreal; the possibility that there all just characters to be used in other people’s dreams, only existing in a dream world…

Sorta like Poe's famous quote: "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream"

But like the clown said there were infinite number of possibilities, that’s what makes the episode so fun to watch.

As the show goes on the major is still thinking of a way to escape and rests his head against the wall in defeat. The ballerina comes over to comfort him, telling him it will get better in time and that, “Perhaps there are a lot of dungeons like this. Maybe we’ve just never heard of them before. …perhaps there for the unloved….perhaps that’s who we are: the unloved…” The major says that they must have names, that their people, and that that must mean they belong somewhere because somewhere they have a life and that somehow it’s been taken from them. What a sad thing. I guess that’s why later on the major assumes they are all in hell.

After a while, the major observes that the walls are made of metal, that the room is cylinder and there’s no way to climb out. They try to think of another way out and the clown jokes around and says they should pretend they are acrobats, he starts jumping around.

That gives the ballerina an idea that they could pretend to be acrobats. The clown doesn’t get what she means and the major explains that they could escape if they all stood on each other’s shoulders – maybe that way they could reach the top. After one failed attempt the major suggests they try again, this time he would use a sword and some rope from the clown’s uniform- he’d fling the sword to the other side, it would get caught and they could climb up and escape.

He finally gets all the way to the top, and sits up on the edge to see where they are, he loses his balance and falls on the other side- all the way down to the snowy ground- face first.


I couldn’t help but laugh at this scene even though it was sort of sad also.


The scene changes and shows the major, who is still face down in the snow, as a plastic toy doll. A little girl finds him, picks him up, and assumes he must have fell out of the barrel somehow. The 'room' they were in was actually a barrel; a charity bin for little girls in need.


So...they were just toys!?

I don’t think anyone could have guessed the ending; it was such a surprise. Then there was that bell they kept hearing throughout the epsiode- I had no idea what that could be, at the end we find out the human woman on the outside would ring it to get people’s attention so they’d donate and place more objects into the barrel.

I felt bad for the major; especially since it turned out he was just a toy.  He seemed like the only sane one and he reminded the others the urgency of escaping and finding the truth; what lies outside the box- the boxes we are all placed inside.  Sometimes we get so close to escaping only to be disappointed as we often are. We have to find some way to cope with the situations we are placed in, no matter how dreadful and depressing. Unfortunately, some are left feeling hopeless and alone; just like the dolls in this episode….even though they had each other, if they don’t know who they are- if they don’t know their purpose…what is the point?

I’m just now realizing how sad that is; they never find out the answer to who they were, where they came from and what happened to the major- they are still in the barrel. Even sadder, the major simply gets placed back inside after all that effort trying to escape. Who knows what happens to them after that- hopefully they'll get a good owner and they can start a new life.

This episode had an interesting concept, a surprise ending and great, unique, oddball characters that seemed completely random. It makes sense now why they were so random- they were merely dolls placed inside a donation bin.

I just loved the characters in this episode- they are all so different in traits and temperament, and in each one there’s something most can relate to whether it be the satire of the clown, or the major’s realist personality. Though they seemed absurd and the whole situation was fictional, the dolls did question their little universe in the same way we question ours.

Part of the story reminds me of the movie,  “Toy story” where the toy doll “Woody” has a nightmare where his owner; a little boy named Andy, throws him inside a barrel- the same barrel he throws all other broken/rejected toys.

Andy: “I don’t want to play with you anymore”


Then the evil broken doll pieces start to choke woody and pull him inside the can


In a slow creepy voice Andy says goodbye and closes the lid

"Bye Woody"...

I’d hate to be a toy…






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